More than 445 nonprofit housing counseling agencies nationwide have one simple message for Congress: Restore housing counseling funds.
[IMAGE] Mandated federal budget cuts earlier this year stripped away $88 million in HUD funding that had been designated to support mortgage and foreclosure counseling programs.
Those working on the front lines of the housing crisis everyday say housing counseling is a critical component of national efforts to assist distressed homeowners.
Yet, there is growing uncertainty over the restoration of federal funds to support such efforts, and nonprofits warn foreclosure counseling funding from other government sources is also at risk.
Many nonprofit housing counseling agencies rely on public support to operate and offer their services to homeowners free of charge.
In a ""letter sent to members"":http://www.995hope.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Microsoft-Word-HUD-Counseling-Support-Letter_doc-3.pdf of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, more than 445 of those agencies around the country jointly called for Congress to restore HUD housing counseling assistance at the level of $60 million as part of the fiscal year 2012 budget.
The counselors stress in their letter that the middle of a housing crisis is not the time to take away Ã¢â‚¬Å“a lifeline to[COLUMN_BREAK]
millions of families struggling to save their home from foreclosure.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The ""Homeownership Preservation Foundation"":http://www.995hope.org helps distressed homeowners navigate financial challenges through its HomeownerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s HOPE Hotline (888-995-HOPE) and is one of the 445-plus agencies that penned their name to the letter to Congress.
Colleen Hernandez, is president and CEO of the Homeownership Preservation Foundation. She says there are five million Americans currently facing foreclosure and in dire need of help, and that number is likely to grow.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“As we begin to enter the second phase of the housing crisis -- one where many expect to see a steep uptick in foreclosure activity -- it is imperative that distressed homeowners continue to have access to trusted HUD-certified counselors, like those at HPF, who can provide them with reliable, accurate information and guidance to help them find the best way out of their personal financial quagmires,Ã¢â‚¬Â Hernandez said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“That will not likely be the case if these critical funds for housing counseling are not restored. Many reputable counseling agencies making a meaningful difference in their local communities will be forced to close,"" she added.
There are currently more than 2,700 HUD-certified housing counseling agencies that help financially distressed homeowners. Many also provide critical information that helps homeowners avoid being victimized by mortgage scams.
Measurable data from studies conducted by independent researchers has definitively underscored the effectiveness of housing counseling services.
Research confirms that housing counseling doubles the likelihood of receiving a loan modification by 200 percent and increases the odds that homeowners will be able to remain current on their payments.